It’s hard to believe the Channel 4 series Shameless only aired for the first time in January 2004. The hugely popular series shot young Mancunian actor Gerard Kearns to fame as a member of the UK’s most dysfunctional family, the Gallaghers. Paul Abbot’s comedy drama is set on the Chatsworth Estate where Kearns and the rest of his onscreen family captured the hearts of the nation.

On stage, Kearns has performed in Hanky Park at the Lowry and Borstal Boy at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2002. His small screen credits include Doctors, Heartbeat and Holby City as well as all three series of Shameless.

Kearns makes his London stage debut at Southwark Playhouse this month in the world premiere of A N Zakarian’s A Thousand Yards. The production, directed by Roisin McBrinn, continues its limited season until 25 June 2005.

Date & place of birth
I was born in the Royal Oldham Hospital on 4 October 1984, so I’m a Libra, a nice balance of everything.

Lives now in...
I live with my family in England, the World, the Universe. But whilst I’m in London I’m staying at Maxine Peake’s. She’s like a second mum to me – part of the Shameless family!

I trained at David Johnson’s workshops at Laine Management in Manchester.

First big break
Shameless, my one and only. It was a big break because I’d never done anything before that apart from extra work and regional theatre.

Career highlights to date
Borstal Boy, which I did at the Edinburgh Festival – going naked on stage at the age of 16 and not being paid! My mum didn’t come to see that. It was a kind of work/holiday experience because I had both at the same time. You can’t beat going on, doing the show, then going out and getting blathered! We had plenty of time to recover before the next day’s show. It was great!

Favourite production you've ever worked on
Doctors was a good one. I got to drive a car and I smashed the window by accident – I slammed the door too hard! Also Hanky Park at the Lowry in Manchester. I really liked that because I got to work with all my old friends from the workshop and to practice my movements and stage technique. Shameless, too, because I got to work for Channel 4 and that was something I’d wanted to do for a long time, since I saw films like Trainspotting.

Favourite co-stars
It has to be Jody Lee Latham (who plays Kearns’ brother in Shameless) because we are both around the same age and we can have a laugh and relate to each other. An age gap changes scenarios and the kind of conversations you have doesn’t it?

Favourite directors
Ridley Scott because he has an eye for barren landscapes and actors with fight in them. And James Foley on the sole evidence of his film of Glengarry Glen Ross.

Favourite playwrights
David Mamet for Glengarry and John Steinbeck for Of Mice and Men because both those plays really get my emotions going. Also, although they’re not playwrights, Hunter S Thompson and Terry Gilliam for the screen version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas because the monologues in that are in a league of their own.

What roles would you most like to play still?
As many as imaginable. I’d like to be a bad guy or a gangster but really as many as imaginable - make sure you say that - and a love role with a beautiful woman…

If you hadn’t become an actor, what would you have done professionally?
A dustbin man. I don’t know, I’ve still got ambitions. I’d love to do music - I can still do that anyway, can’t I?

You’ve made a name for yourself on TV. Why do you want to work on stage? Why do you think theatre is important?
You get one shot and it has to be right. Nothing beats the feeling of being on stage, warming an audience, getting instant smiles and cries, hallos, goodbyes.

What was the first thing you saw on stage? And the last?
We watched Scrooge at the Palace Theatre when I was at primary school and I couldn’t believe how real they made it look. He had this mirror which he walked through, which you don’t think is going to be possible on stage, but they made it possible, amazing. Watching a film is not a patch on watching a play. You are in there, watching it happening in front of you, that’s what really got me. Recently, I went and watched Maxine Peake at the Royal Exchange in Rutherford and Son. That was excellent, really good and I want to see Death of a Salesman.

What advice would you give the government to secure the future of British theatre?
Bring in as much new talent as possible and work with it. Tell the politicians to go and watch more theatre too. That might open their eyes a bit to what’s going on. Also, remember, Westminster isn’t a stage, it’s real life. Some politicians are better actors than real ones. They need to start telling the truth.

If you could swap places with one person (living or dead) for a day, who would it be?
Can I be two? Al Pacino, to pick up as many of his ideas, tools and techniques, so I could have a career like his. He’s an actor for life and a pro, that’s what you want. The other is Peter Sellers for being an absolute comic genius. He’s so subtle, you can’t beat him. They’d be two good people to be for a day, don’t you think?

Favourite books
Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine, John Grisham’s A Time to Kill and Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. I haven’t read The Da Vinci Code yet. Everyone says it’s amazing, but it’s the ones people build up that are crap and the ones that no one’s heard of that are amazing.

Favourite holiday destinations
The south of France, Ireland, and I’d love to go to Rio de Janeiro.

Favourite websites
Yeah well, I don’t go on it much any more, but when I was at college I liked - it kept me occupied for the whole year!

Why did you want to accept your part in A Thousand Yards?
My character sees hope in everything, and I think it’s a great mentality to have. He can count brush marks in painting, he’s a congenital liar and he’s a very amusing person without knowing it.

This is your first play in the capital. How do you feel about facing a London audience?
Great – how does a London audience feel about facing me?

What’s your favourite line from A Thousand Yards?
”Funny as in ha ha?”
“No, funny as in are you taking the piss?”

What are your plans for the future? Anything else you’d like to add?
To be an actor for life. I’d love to do music as well, but as long as I entertain with my feet on the ground I’m sure I’ll do fine. To all my family and friends hello, goodbye and bon soir.

- Gerard Kearns was speaking to Hannah Kennedy

A Thousand Yards is playing at Southwark Playhouse until 25 June 2005.